Some residents are questioning whether revised plans for a mixed-use development near the Sturgeon River valley known as Riverbank Landing did enough to address concerns lingering from the developer's original plans, primarily about how the development would increase traffic on Bellerose Drive.
The development would see five buildings on the former Hole's Greenhouses site, two of which are 40 and 50 metres high, with 360 residential units and about 67,700 square-feet of commercial space (for reference, the Botanica building next to the site is 37 metres tall).
This includes residential with main floor commercial, restaurants and boutiques, a medical professional building and seniors residences. Thirteen townhomes are closest to single family homes in Oakmont. Forty-eight per cent would be dedicated to green space, with connections to the Red Willow Trail System. A children’s play area, entertainment platform and fire pit are also included in the plans.
Before council gets first look at the application next month, Boudreau Communities Ltd. held two question and answer sessions in March, each about 90 minutes long. One specifically focused on traffic concerns, the other was a more general session. A survey, which closed on March 29, also asked residents several questions, including what the main issues are, what elements of the design people like and thoughts on building heights and traffic.
"This is a perfect chance to turn what is now a private estate into public access. Riverfront that's really for everyone in St. Albert, not just the residents who live here," said Dave Haut, president of Boudreau, during the last session last Wednesday.
Haut said the proposal could create 320 direct and indirect jobs, with about $1.6 million in net tax revenue to the city per year.
To do this, Boudreau is asking for the city to amend the Oakmont area structure plan to allow for mixed-use development, redistricting three lots from direct control (DC) to direct control mixed-use (DCMU), and adding a height schedule to the land use bylaw to allow for a 40-metre and 50-metre tall building. Council will consider first readings of these amendments on April 19, before it goes to public hearing tentatively set for May 18.
If council approves the project, Haut said the goal is to have shovels in the ground in 2021.
The development has been controversial over the last year, and city council voted down Boudreau's original proposal last June. After that, the developer revised plans to reduce building heights by 50 per cent, reduce commercial by 16 per cent, conduct a new traffic study, and step the development down where it approaches the Oakmont neighbourhood.
Almost 60 people attended the general Q&A session over Zoom on March 24.
One question, read by Y-Station moderator Chris Henderson, asked Boudreau to provide clear plans for increased traffic on Bellerose, specifically with the Evergreen Drive and Bellerose intersection. Right now, movements through the Boudreau and Bellerose intersection are either approaching or over capacity during peak hours, with southbound left turn queues spilling back and beyond Evergreen.
Increased queuing lanes should help with that, Haut said. The City of St. Albert is planning to spend about $1.8 million this year to improve traffic flows at the Boudreau and Bellerose intersection. This work, scheduled to begin this year, includes widening the queuing lane on Bellerose and adding a double left-hand turn lane onto Boudreau. A queuing lane with a dedicated right hand turn aisle will allow more drivers to head north.
"So there's a lot more room between the Evergreen (traffic) lights and the Bellerose, Boudreau lights for queuing," he said. Another solution, which Boudreau has offered to pay for, is to get the traffic lights at the two intersections "talking" to each other using artificial intelligence, he said.
"By getting the two of these talking, we can ensure that there is no traffic locked (at the Evergreen intersection) when you leave."
Another person, whose question was read out, asked how the intersection could be expected to handle traffic from this development, Botanica, the Shops at Boudreau, Evergreen residents, and commuters. Haut said the city had peer-reviewed Boudreau's traffic study with another firm, and "it came back with similar findings." Another person doubted whether the improvements would last 13 years.
"They're professional engineers, but they didn't just look at this project. They looked at growth forecast for the entire region."
One of the last questions asked why Boudreau is "so determined to build such a large development on this land when considering all the issues the public has with the development."
Haut said there are "misconceptions" about the project out there, as some residents don't like the proposal for the area.
"There are a whole bunch of people that do ... This offers a lifestyle that we believe is needed. It's needed for the environment, it's needed for our health, it's needed for the way that development is going to happen in the future. We believe this is the right use for this piece of land."